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Must…. remain…. polite

Just wrote, then revised, then revised again, an email to a fellow who’s rapidly making his way to my “never work with” list.

He is someone who is involved with a course I took last semester. I needed one more course on research methodology and had taken everything my school offered, so arranged to take a faculty development course at MD Anderson to fill the requirement. The fac dev course is something they’ve put together on quality improvement measurement techniques, essentially, and overall I’m glad I took it.

But, to arrange to take the course I ended up doing “double-work” – participating in all the work of the course required of the usual participants, plus an additional project on the side to satisfy the school requirements. So the nice way of putting it was that it’s an “educational bargain” – double the work for the same tuition?

The guy in question works for the MDA department that offers the course. He was assigned to the faculty group I worked with as part of the “usual” course work. He was supposed to “facilitate” the team effort but when the team leader turned out to be an ineffectual leader who didn’t really understand the methodology, he simply bailed out entirely and let one of his colleagues take over the group. So I’d already formed a fairly low opinion of him.

Anyway, for the “extra” project I helped the head of the department put together a web-based survey intended to evaluate the long-term outcomes of the course. We followed standardized processes for creating, deploying, and advertising our survey; we collected our data and after we’d gotten a 75% response rate (good in survey research!) we closed the survey and started analyzing the data.

Well, this fellow, who has utterly ignored the project to this point, sends me an email asking to see the survey. I send him a copy and he responds by asking how I “tested these questions for reliability and validity”?

I took the time to send him a several-paragraph explanation of what (literature-supported) approach I’d used, and he responded with a condescending reply about how participant self-report can’t possibly measure the things I want to measure, but if I’d like I can work with him and another guy (who he’s “sure will agree”) on a project to measure things more correctly.

Pause. Count ten.

Reply with a couple more paragraphs pointing him to publications that deal with how to overcome the bias inherent in self-report measures, as well as pointing out that I committed to participate in this one project and it’s about over. Refrain from pointing out that his input would have been more appropriate six months ago, when the project was planned. And politely thank him for the offer to work with me and say I’ll consider it if he has the funding to offer me a position with MDA or to bring me in as a consultant at the faculty level.

Hopefully this will shut him up. I don’t like alienating people in my field but if he responds with more condescending bullshit I will have a hard time avoiding an unfriendly response.



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